I was never a guy who craved for any particular food. In fact, there have been stretches in my life where I indiscriminately ate whatever would provide the necessary calories to get through the day.
That's changed. I now desire very specific foods, and I've have gone to unnecessary and embarrassing lengths to ingest them. I like to think of these lusted-after dishes as a salve to repair the stress of a long day, or maybe a reward for whatever accomplishment I think deserves rewarding. In reality, though, I just want to eat something awesome because I'm an impulsive individual with a lack of self-control that is beginning to make itself evident around my waistline.
My perfect meal consists entirely of these items, the mere memory of which can haunt me.
The Impaler ($5)
IRON GOAT BREWING
1302 W. Second Ave., 474-0722, irongoatbrewing.com
I almost never drink high-gravity beers, because I don't always enjoy having my taste buds obliterated by an overdose of hops and getting ruddy cheeks from just one beer. But damn it, the Impaler is an exception to that. Weighing in at a hefty 8.5 percent ABV, this Iron Goat standby is a floral, aromatic imperial IPA that's full of flavor and somehow isn't overpowering... somehow. It's available in bottles at your local grocer and at many Spokane restaurants — even some fancy ones — but I find it's best out of the tap while shooting the breeze with the regulars across the bar top at Iron Goat's Second Avenue pub. Sometimes I'll be drinking some other beer at some other bar and wonder why I'm not having an Impaler. It's good enough to lead to such regret.
House Made Meatballs and Mozzarella ($11)
113 N. Bernard St., 363-1210, italiankitchenspokane.com
The first thing I ate at a restaurant when I moved to Spokane was a meatball sandwich from Italian Kitchen, the authentic throwback eatery in downtown Spokane. It featured some of the best meatballs I'd ever tasted. Then, I realized they had these meatballs on the appetizer menu and that some madman had covered them in mozzarella, surrounded them with Italian Kitchen's bold marinara and then baked them. Chef Eric Nelson says the all-beef, housemade meatballs are among the most popular items on the menu, as they should be. I really have no idea why I'm sitting here writing about these succulent spheres when I could be eating them.
Lemon Chicken ($13)
GORDY'S SICHUAN CAFÉ
501 E. 30th Ave., 747-1170, gordysspokane.com
So here's another thing about me: I have two kids and each of them is unique in their manner of making going out to eat a nightmare. My 3-year-old knows that if he's bonkers enough at the table, he'll get to watch videos on my phone. My 18-month-old daughter is known by servers throughout the restaurant industry for her distaste for high chairs and intense desire to run out the door and into traffic whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is where Gordy's Sichuan Café comes in. It's high-end food that you can order as takeout without feeling weird about it. And, more importantly, you can eat it in the safety of your own home without your offspring ruining someone else's evening. I have never ordered from Gordy's without getting the lemon chicken. Oh, I've tried other items and could evangelize about those, too, but this dish — although seemingly simple — is a delight. The meat is lightly battered and absent the deep-fried feel you'll find with most Chinese fast food. The lemon flavor is there, but not overpowering. If you want more, there are lemon wedges you can pinch onto it. The crunch and the zesty, tangy sauce combine for the sort of multi-sense experience that sticks with you.
Burnt Cream ($7.95)
621 W. Mallon Ave., 328-5965, clinkerdagger.com
I don't have a sweet tooth. I'd rather have something irresponsibly salty or greasy than to splurge on sugar; thus, I rarely order dessert. Nevertheless, I'm a human being who can appreciate a good post-meal treat. And because I enjoy the saltier side of things, I am enamored with the burnt cream at Clinkerdagger. Yes, Clinkerdagger is a longtime Spokane institution, so this doesn't make me hip. But there's a reason this has been on the menu for so many years — it's incredible. The crust breaks to give way to rich, creamy goodness. It comes with fresh seasonal fruit and a house-made whipped cream, to boot. The first time I had it, I paired it with a glass of Irish whiskey, poured neat. It's a winning combination. ♦